On first appearances, tattoo artist "Mean" Gene Martin is no soft touch but a heartfelt plea from his daughter, Maddison, almost reduced him to tears.
Maddison's friend, Stephanie Voice, 8, was in May diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumour that develops from nerve tissue, and is undergoing treatment in Auckland's Starship children's hospital.
Maddison asked her heavily tattooed father to help her friend and today a fundraising day for Stephanie will be held at the Mean Team Tattoo studio, at the corner of St Aubyn St and Cutfield Rd, New Plymouth, between 10am and 6pm.
"I told him Stephanie had cancer and stuff and a few weeks later he'd set up a bank account and Facebook page, Inked Up for Stephanie, for her," Maddison said.
"He always makes heaps of money."
The fundraiser will involve a cake sale, sausage sizzle, raffles, apprentice tattooist Kim Seng will be doing temporary tattoos for kids and the proceeds from any tattoos Mr Martin does on the day will go to Stephanie.
Mr Martin said his daughter's plea had inspired him.
"I would hate for that to happen to any of my kids," the father of four said.
"I don't know how I would cope or how I would handle it, so if I can donate one day of my working life for her, it's the least I can do."
Mr Martin said the bank account was in Stephanie's mother's name, Helen Buckley, and he hoped the money would go towards making the family's Christmas a little brighter.
"She has been so strong through it all and is an amazing mum," he said.
"I sit here sometimes and I just want to cry about it, really. I wouldn't wish it upon anybody."
Ms Buckley said Mr Martin's offer had come as a welcome surprise.
"For him to do this is just awesome. I'm very grateful," she said.
"It will be a much happier time at Christmas."
She said tumours were found in six different places in her daughter's body.
"The primary one was behind her heart. It was the size of her heart by the time she was diagnosed," Ms Buckley said.
"It was also around her spinal cord and it was trying to get into her vertebrae and if it had touched her spinal cord it would have paralysed her."
However, after surgery to remove the tumour, five months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, the outlook for Stephanie was improving.
"Treatment so far is going well. They can't see any cancer in the scans but most likely there is still some in her bone marrow."
She said doctors were amazed by Stephanie's progress.
"They are calling her a Kiwi legend up here, she was an absolute mess when we first came in."
Ms Buckley said Maddison had been a really good friend to Stephanie.
Nix Dungeon had donated $300 of necklaces for the fundraiser and Mel Dwyer and Anna Corey-McDonald had worked tirelessly to arrange the day, Mr Martin said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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